When the Chicago Bulls drafted Jimmy Butler with the 30th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, they knew almost immediately they found a gem. Unfortunately, Butler was buried on the Bulls bench behind the likes of Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. It didn’t appear that the rookie Butler would ever get a chance to shine in Chicago.
However, once the 2012-13 season began, a lot of changes were made to the Bulls roster. Korver and Brewer left as free agents, and Hamilton was sidelined for much of the year with injuries. Butler was inserted into the starting lineup and never looked back. In his second season in the league, Butler averaged eight points and four rebounds per game. One year later, he improved his numbers to 13 points and five rebounds while starting all 67 games he played in.
Bulls management even showed their faith in Butler by trading longtime captain Deng in January to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The trade allowed Butler more playing time while shouldering Deng’s former defensive responsibilities. But Butler has yet to play a full season with a healthy Derrick Rose in the lineup. Rose, the 2010-11 MVP, had two consecutive season-ending injuries, but is on pace to return for the 2014-15 season.
Butler could finally have the opportunity to play with a healthy Bulls lineup that would give him more open looks, as well as free up driving lanes to the basket. While Butler has been a solid player for the Bulls, he hasn’t always shot the ball well. During his three-year career, Butler has shot 42 percent from the field while shooting 40 percent from outside the three-point line. With a healthy Rose, along with a somewhat revamped Bulls roster, Butler could benefit tremendously from all of the possible changes coming to the team.
At 24 years of age, Butler hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential. But once he’s finally able to play a full season with Rose, and possibly improve his shooting, expect him to be a solid weapon on the Bulls for a very long time.